Climate and environmental scientists targeted for fraud

The BBC today has reported on the  targeting by fraudsters of climate scientists with fake conferences in a bid to make cash and obtain details. Scientists are sent e-mail invitations and directed to a fake conference website – often written using language taken from real scientific meetings. Typically they are told their travel costs will be refunded – but they have to pay first to reserve a hotel room.

Sadly, this is not new. I have been receiving ‘invitations’ for over 6 months now. Each look convincing – at least at first glance – and are supported by a polished web site.

The emails have included invitations to attend a meeting, to lecture, to chair a session, or to chair the entire conference. They have generally been personalised and addressed to me by name, and on some occasions I recall that someone had gone as far as to look up various publications of mine and cite these as the foundation for my invitation.

The pattern of up-front payment and a promise that everything will be refunded is the giveaway.

Of course, it takes just a glance to spot the scam. Despite this, the BBC tell of one scientist who has been suckered, and I know of someone who was sounding off about their invitation to lecture in China that was patently fake and inevitably failed to materialise.

For some reason, many of my ‘invitations’ are for China and I suppose there is the additional draw for overseas travel and the costs are ultimately higher. It can seem impressive, and from there I suppose the unwary might assume that these emails are real. The tone if one of massaging the recipient’s ego, and it is no doubt easy for the naive to fall for it.

These emails keep coming – I got another one just teh other day – and it is apparent that they are sent not only to those in the scientific community but to those in industry also….”We are aware of your huge reputation in the industry and the good work you are doing at […]. We invite you to present your experiences with …”.

Specific topics that have been quoted to me include environmental protection and the waste industries, CO2 targets and waste treatment options, R&D investment in waste treatment developments, and biohazards including sharps injury so someone has an impressive spam-generating computer program that manages to pick up and find all of the appropriate keywords and generate very personalised invitations.

Don’t fall for it!

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